8 on Eight: July Contest Feedback

eight on eight 2Thank you to all the brave souls who entered this month’s 8 on Eight contest! Sharing your writing takes courage, and we appreciate your enthusiasm for our contest.

If your name wasn’t drawn from the Triwizard cup this time around, keep an eye out for when our next contest window opens at 8 PM on July 31st. Below, we’ve posted the first 8 lines from this month’s winner, along with feedback from at least eight of our members. We also encourage our readers to share their (constructive) suggestions and encouragement in the comments section below.

Everett P Holliday the Fourth for President, MG Chapter Book

Everett P. Holliday the Fourth Does Not. Share. His. Room.

Everett P. Holliday the Fourth was going to be president. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not until after second grade at Endeavor Elementary School. But, someday.

 After mayor, like his grandfather, Everett P Holliday the Second. After, governor, like his great, great, great grandfather, Samuel E. Holliday.

Everett the Fourth, soon to be president, did not want to share his room. Not even if it is with his cousin. Presidents do not share their room. He was sure.

“Dad, I don’t think I should share my room?”

“Why not?” asked Dad, up righting the finished the bunk bed assembly.

“Presidents have important stuff to do. Presidents have meetings. Presidents need privacy.”

“That is true,” said Dad.

Gabrielle Byrne: I love the voice. Already, I know Everett, and I like him. I sympathize with him. You’ve got great tension and stakes right from the start. And it’s funny. The sentence that begins with “after mayor” is awkward, and takes me out of the scene. You could go with something more clear there, like, “First he’d be a mayor, like his gfather.” Then he’d be a governor etc. etc.

You’ve got a double “the” in the bunkbed sentence. You’ve also got some funny tense stuff happening between the first sentence and the fourth that feels wonky. In the first sentence he does not share his room. In the fourth sentence he did not want to share his room. I think there’s good character building happening through the structure of the first sentence. He’s making a declaration. If, by the fourth sentence, we begin to see that maybe he’s not so sure he does not share. his. room., I think that would help amp the stakes. I think I see what you’re trying to do with the statement “Dad, I don’t think I should share my room?” ending with a question, but I think you can give us more, and make it more powerful, by cutting that line here, and instead showing us how the MC feels through his body language. This will also help set the scene and let us better visualize our hero. So, for example, something like: “Everett tugged at the edge of his over-size Abe Lincoln T-shirt, threw back his shoulders until the blades touched in back, and picked his next vital words,” Or something. Then the line about Presidents having important things to do.  Let him build up his case. Let us see his body language, and maybe his dad’s too. Does his Dad know what’s coming? Is he exasperated with his boy’s ambition, or is it endearing? End with his statement, I shouldn’t have to share my room, or I don’t want to share my room. Or, the next sentence could be him holding his breath, waiting to see if his father will make the intuitive leap from potential presidents needing privacy, to Everett needing his own space.

I think this story has a lot of great potential, and the voice is super fun and engaging.

Good luck with it!

Sussu Leclerc: Thank you for being brave enough to enter your story into the contest. We are happy to help. I love the idea of this story. I think kids can relate to the character. In fact, sharing one’s room is a big deal for anyone. Our room is private and belongs to us in full rights, I agree. The motivation of the character is believable, but what makes your character even more interesting is the way he justifies not sharing his room. He is the president of his class. No, wait, I read that wrong. He is the future president of his class maybe or maybe of the whole nation. That cracked me up. I feel plenty of room for character change or for conflict in just the first lines. Bravo! The only thing that I questioned in this sample is the use of interrogation marks. I’m not sure they’re adding much to  the story. Although the dad is asking a legitimate question, he could also say “And why not!” in shock because parents always expect kids to obey. Besides, this comes when he is done fixing the bunk beds, not before. The kid seems ready for a big battle. He is definitely on the defensive just the way he talks, so I was expecting more resistance from the parent. This is why adding some indication of the tone the dad adopts would be helpful to understand the attitude of the parent and how he will react to Everett’s antics in the rest of the story. Maybe the dad could frown or grin, amused, or look surprised. Overall, I think this is well done and I enjoyed reading this. Thank you for sharing.

Kristi: Hilarious! The voice jumps off the page– and I’m a sucker for good voice. Gab and Sussu have already mention the two things that jumped out at me (tense issues and awkward wording of the mayor/governor sentences), so I won’t rehash those points, but I do want to say that I’d love to “see” Everrett do something. Gab hints at this in her comment and I agree that it’d be nice to see some kind of subtle action that gives us even more of Everrett’s personality. Having dad put together the bunk beds is such a great way to show us this is all new and happening right now. I really want to read on and see what happens! All the best with this.

JessicaV: Thanks for sharing this sample. I, too, love the voice and this opening has great tension. In terms of feedback, I agree with all of the comments made above. In addition, I’d encourage you to work on the pacing when he starts interacting with his dad. You could do this by deleting the sentences that read, Presidents do not share their room. He was sure. Then, you could jump right from the sentence about the cousin to action and dialogue that focuses on showing this thought, rather than telling us. For example: Not even if it is with his cousin. (Insert action as suggested by Gabrielle) “Dad, Presidents do not share their rooms.” This would tighten things up considerably and set you up to show, right away, what Dad really thinks of this grand plan to become president (hopefully, Dad isn’t so hot on the idea!). Good luck with your revisions!

Richelle: I love the energy here! It zips and is funny, and I love the idea of a second grader with huge ambitions (and a weighty legacy to inspire them). I agree with everyone else: I would love to see what Everett is doing in this scene. Is he actively trying to interfere by jumping on the bed or making a mess his dad has to work around? Is he trying to maintain his dignity and make what he thinks is a serious, adult-style argument? When I was in elementary school, there was a boy who wore a suit and tie every day because he said he wanted to be a businessman and he was practicing — what does Everett do to practice for his future as President? Does he have posters of Presidents on his wall (soon to be covered up by this new bunkbed arrangement)? A couple of tiny, well-placed details like that could really make Everett jump off the page and draw readers into your story even faster. Thanks for sharing!

Michelle: I LOVE your opening lines. They really draw me in, and I instantly want Everett to be my President! I’m assuming you’re speaking of the President of the United States, in which case I’m pretty sure president should be capitalized. I agree that your second paragraph needs a little reworking. Maybe inserting the word “being” would help. “After first being mayor, like…“After next being governor, like…” In the sentence with his cousin, I think you can condense it: “Not even with his cousin.”  In the scene with his dad, I’d like for him to see the bunk bed, make some kind of gesture (hand on hips, poked out lips, something to deepen the scene) and then say, “Dad, Presidents do not share their room.”  Then he could do something like gaze at the book about Presidents on his desk to give us clues about his commitment to his plan. I love Richelle’s ideas (above) that relate to this. Also, after dad’s last statement, some hint of dad’s facial expression would be good to tell us what dad thinks. Best of luck with this fun read! Keep us in the loop with how it goes!

Julie: This is such a great concept for a chapter book and I love the contrast in the opening lines between achieving his dream of becoming President and finishing the second grade–that got a chuckle out of me for sure! I agree with what everyone else here said (aren’t my critique partners the best?), especially that adding some more action into the scene will not only show us more about Everett’s unique personality, but will also give you an opportunity to show us Everett through the Dad’s eyes. How does he feel about his son’s presidential ambitions? Is he accommodating, or is this the most recent in a long series of things that Everett refuses to do because of his desire to be president (perhaps he also refuses to clean his room or brush his teeth or whatever because presidents don’t do that kind of thing)? The interaction between Dad and Everett can show us a lot of this in very few words if it’s done just right, and will build the tension (and possibly also the comedy). Best of luck!

Halli: This sounds very cute. I love stories about kids reaching for the stars and dreaming big. My favorite sentence is Not until after second grade at Endeavor Elementary School. That shows me he isn’t going to let his age stop him from doing anything. I have a few comments about these lines, basically about consistency. My personal preference is to have topics/ideas together. You start off with Everett not wanting to share his room and then move into his dream of becoming president and following in his ancestors’ political footsteps. Then you go back to sharing the room. My suggestion would be to delete your first line. You mention it again before the dialogue and opening with him wanting to be president and talking about his family sets up his character. We see a determined kid and learn he is in 2nd grade. I want to read on because I have a feeling achieving his goal won’t be easy and I am interested to see how he pushes through. Next we see he doesn’t want to share his room which is the first stumbling block.

Going to the section about sharing his room, you mention that phrase several times in that paragraph and then again in dialogue. I think you can tighten up that section, possibly inserting action, emotion, and/or description instead. I believe that will draw the reader in more and tell us more about Everett.

And the last thing is that I too had a question about tenses. That is definitely not my strong point, but it didn’t read smoothly. I am not sure if chapter books are usually past or present tense, but I believe you have a little of both here.

Good luck with this story! It’s fun.


4 thoughts on “8 on Eight: July Contest Feedback

  1. Thank you so much for reading my opening. Ya’ll have given me a lot to think about. Sometimes, my thoughts (or what my mind sees), don’t make it to paper. This has been tremendous feedback. I appreciate it.

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